If you hated Throne of Glass because the supposedly violent assassin acted out Cinderella instead of Buffy, then you’ll absolutely adore Crown of Midnight. Rare is it these days, that an author will read critical reviews such as mine and actually make a concerted effort to make their readers happy by upping their game. And boy, did Ms. Maas raise the bar.
Let’s address the issues that I brought up in my 2-star review of the debut.
Poorly constructed insta-love love triangle: Quashed. Winner is determined.
He would move on. Because he would not be like the ancient kings in the song and keep her for himself. She deserved a loyal, brave knight who saw her for what she was and did not fear her. And he deserved someone who would look at him like that, even if the love wouldn’t be the same, even if the girl wouldn’t be her. So Dorian closed his eyes, and took another long breath. And when he opened his eyes, he let her go. [p119]
Dorian shows surprising maturity and with the help of Celaena’s bestie, Princess Nehemia, he attempts to move on without bitterness leaving the well-suited Chaol to win her affection.
“Don’t cause trouble for them. You and I… We will always stand apart. We well always have… responsibilities. We will always have burdens that no one else can ever understand. That they” – she inclined her head toward Chaol and Celaena – “will never understand. And if they did, then they would not want them.”
They would not want us, is what you mean. [p135]
Chaol and Celaena’s romance deepens and heats up, finally culminating in consummation. 18-year-old Celaena was a virgin, and though it hurt, afterwards she was ‘Tired but happy.’ And in love. She felt whole and full of hope – something she’d never felt before.
The spoilt prince: Grows Up.
Dorian stands up to his father by opposing his proposal to expand the slave camps filled with the innocent of conquered foreign lands. Dorian’s rage brings out his magic that he never knew he had and is desperate to hide it from everyone so he can’t be executed by his father, the King. Dorian knows he’s vastly outnumbered when it comes to his father’s council, and yet he begins to fight back anyway. I worry about his newly arrived cousin. That guy has been positioned to become Dorian’s confidant – he agrees with everything the prince says, while plotting behind his back.
An inconsistent heroine: Blood, death, intrigue – all on stage – and not a dress in sight. Celaena’s far more tactful, except for a major and understandable incident – more on that later.
Celaena reached a gloved hand into the sack and tossed the severed head toward him. No one spoke as it bounced, a vulgar thudding of stiff and rotting flesh on marble. It rolled to a stop at the foot of the dais, milky eyes turned toward the ornate glass chandelier overhead.
Pages 221-3 of the UK paperback depict the most beautifully written fight scene – Celaena against multiple opponents as she infiltrates a building to save a kidnapped Chaol. Bloody and violent, yet graceful and beautiful. What follows is brilliantly written – more on this below.
“Enough! We have enough enemies as it is! There are worse things out there to face!”
Calaena slowly turned to him, her face splattered with blood and eyes blazing bright. “No, there aren’t.” she said. “Because I’m here now.”
Predictable: Much less so now. You get a feeling about certain people and situations but nothing is so painfully obvious that you’re frustrated at what seems a slow pace or the ignorance of any characters. And there’s a major incident I didn’t see coming that has sad and disheartening ramifications – more on that in a moment.
‘I wanted more action, politics and mystery…’: I got all of these. There was no way I was DNFing this one.
****HUGE SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT****
Nehemia’s death. Celaena runs full speed to Nehamia’s aid when she found out about the threat to her best friend’s life via Archer and Chaol, only to find a corpse in Nehamia’s now blood spattered rooms, obviously tortured before she was killed. This tips our heroine into the blinding rage and agony of grief.
They had done this.
Her bloody fingers slid down Dorian’s face. to his neck. He just stared at her, suddenly still.
“Celaena,” that familiar voice said. A warning.
They had done this. They had betrayed her. Betrayed Nehemia. They had taken her away. Her nails brushed Dorian’s exposed throat.
“Celaena,” the voice said.
Celaena slowly turned.
Chaol stared at her, a hand on his sword. The sword she’s brought to the warehouse – the sword she’d left there. Archer had told her that Chaol had known they were going to do this.
He had known.
She shattered completely, and launched herself at him.
It’s absolutely heartbreaking, and I felt every second of it.
“You will never be my friend. You will always be my enemy.” She bellowed that last word with such soul-deep hatred that he felt it like a punch to the gut.
Dorian accidentally uses magic to stop Celaena’s blade from stabbing and killing Chaol. It turned out Archer had Nehemia killed – Celaena kills him.
Celaena can’t bare to live without Nehemia so she tries to bring her back to life, all the while Nehemia’s last words to her at the end of an argument ringing in her ears:
“You are nothing more than a coward.”
Risking life and limb for others who’ve done nothing for her, isn’t in Celaena’s nature. Going against the King is to court the possible pain and death of those she’s come to love. Understandably, relative safety is a valuable commodity to her. Nehemia challenging this hurt her deeply because she may seem a hardened, almost unfeeling assassin on the outside but her personal history has left her soft and vulnerable on the inside.
By opening a portal, Celaena is able to speak to Nehemia one last time where the princess reveals her level of dedication to her people; her last act of bravery, the ultimate self-sacrifice – her death would bring them hope of a better future.
“You will not understand yet, but… I knew what me fate was to be, and I embraced it. I ran toward it. Because it was the only way for things to begin changing, for events to be set in motion.”
Chaol finds out Celaena is part fae (she can shift between forms) and has a shit-ton of raw magic. Chaol trades his position and a chance to be with Celaena again to send her away – back to the safety of the fae. He made a deal with his father – he has to return to his homeland to be heir again.
In the process, Chaol makes an enemy of Dorian because Dorian doesn’t know she’s fae with magic, too dangerous to be so close to the King, who executes magic users. Her mission is to execute the royal family of a land yet to fall to Dorian’s father.
As Celaena is sailing away she gives Chaol a clue as to her real identity; his research reveals: she’s the last queen of Terrasen – the only person who rally an army large enough to defeat Dorian’s father.
I’m incredibly impressed by this sequel. The series has gone from ‘abandoned’ – until I heard about the improvements in this one – to ‘must read the next one’. I will say, I’m disappointed that Chaol and Celaena have been broken apart by his mistake, grief and now distance, but it was done so well that I can’t ‘hate’ this development. Bring on book #3 of 6, Heir of Fire.